Dr. M.J. Bazos, Patient Handout


About Your Diagnosis
Multifocal atrial tachycardia means the atrium of the heart beats too fast (tachycardia). This phenomenon is caused by abnormal electrical signals that come from different places in the heart (multifocal). It causes the heart to beat rapidly for no apparent reason. This abnormal heart rhythm is called an arrhythmia. It is often caused by heart or lung disease such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD, or emphysema). It may occur off and on and rarely causes problems by itself. It is detected when a specific pattern is found on an electrocardiogram (ECG).

Living With Your Diagnosis
The symptoms of multifocal atrial tachycardia are related to rapid beating of the heart. They may be accompanied by shortness of breath or chest pain if you have lung or heart disease. A rapid heartbeat by itself can sometimes be slowed with one of the following maneuvers: straining as if lifting a heavy object, gently massaging the carotid artery for a few seconds, or placing a cold, wet towel on the face for a few minutes. If these maneuvers are unsuccessful, therapy for this condition focuses on the disease causing the tachycardia, particularly if it is associated with low oxygen levels (hypoxia). Medications may be used to slow the response of the ventricle to the arrhythmia. The medications generally used are calcium-channel blockers, such as verapamil and diltiazem. Propranolol and quinidine also may be used. Each of these medications may cause nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. Propranolol slows the heartbeat and may make exercise difficult. Quinidine may cause fever, rash, or cinchonism (ringing in the ears, dizziness, and headache).

The best treatment is one that manages the disease causing the multifocal atrial tachycardia. The usual medications for heart or lung disease should be taken as directed.

The DOs
•Make your diet one that is healthful for your heart (low fat and low cholesterol).
•Stop smoking.
•Exercise as tolerated unless your other medical problems prevent it.

The DON’Ts
•Do not forget to take your usual medications.
•Do not ignore worsening chest pain. Seek medical attention immediately.

When to Call Your Doctor
•If you have side effects of your medication.
•If you have new or worsening symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, or fainting.